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PUT THIS MONEY TO WORK

Luke 19:11-19:27
Key Verse: 19:13

Thank God for helping us to see that God’s words are wonderful and the unfolding of his word gives light. May God continually unfold the words of Luke’s gospel to us! In the last lesson we learned that Jesus came to seek and to save what was lost. Now today’s passage, the parable of the ten minas can be about how we should live with our newly found identity, our new life in Christ.

First, put this money to work (11-13). Look at verse 11. “While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.” In the previous passage Jesus said to Zacchaeus who climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see Jesus, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So Zacchaeus came down at once and welcomed Jesus gladly. We don’t know all the conversation that went on in Zacchaeus’ house. The key point written in the passage was Zacchaeus’ repentance and Jesus’ declaration of salvation upon his house and Jesus’ coming purpose into this world to seek and to save what was lost. Jesus was in Jericho heading toward his last destination of his journey, Jerusalem. Jericho is about 27 km (17 miles) from that city, so the journey was nearly over. This led some to think that the climax was at hand and the kingdom of God would appear immediately. The people thought that as soon as Jesus entered Jerusalem, the messianic kingdom with power and glory would appear at once. They expected that in that powerful and glorious kingdom the Israelites would rise above all other nations and all their life problems would be gone automatically. Their concept of the messianic kingdom, the kingdom of God was wrong. The kingdom would not be the kingdom of outward, earthly, Jewish splendour. The kingdom would not be political at all, but spiritual. Jesus had said in 17:20-21, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation…the kingdom of God is within in you.” And then in that chapter 17 Jesus told his disciples about his second coming which would be like the lightning and be the consummation of the kingdom of God, and yet that coming had to be preceded by his suffering and death. These words of Jesus were not understood even in the minds of his disciples, not to mention the minds of the people.

In order to help them Jesus told them a parable. Look at verses 12. “He said, ‘A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return.’” This parable has a historical background. Both Herod I in 40 B.C. and Archelaus in 4 B.C. went to Rome to receive ruling authority from the emperor. So definitely, the people would understand the concept of a king appointed and returning. Yet, Jesus was not talking about the worldly concept of the kingship. Here, a man of noble birth refers to Jesus, going a distant country, his ascension, and his returning, his second coming. Look at verse 13. “So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’”

Here we can think of how to wait for our Lord Jesus’ coming again. There have been people in history who thought that Jesus would come soon and withdrew from their normal life, even escaping to remote places. Also, they were people who tried to predict the exact date of Jesus’ coming again, and give up their regular life as the day was approaching coming. Some thought that Christ Jesus would return on September 28, 2015, when the lunar eclipse would take place. Yet, the day passed like other days. And In chapter 12 Jesus mentioned a servant who thought that his master was taking a long time in coming and lived a terrible life as if he were a master (12:45). It is important to have a sense of readiness and urgency. As we studied in Luke 12, Jesus stressed this, saying, “the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him,” and “the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of” (12:40,46). In the book of Revelation Jesus said repeatedly, “I am coming soon” (3:11; 22:7,12,20). However, at the time of early Christian church there were scoffers, saying, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?” for everything seemed to be going the same way from the beginning of the creation (2 Pe 3:4). Since then, almost 2000 years have passed. So now some people of authorities in Christianity declare that they gave up this waiting, since they waited too long. But in fact no one waited for 2000 years. One could wait at most during his lifetime. And from God 1,000 years is like a day (2 Pe 3:7), and the Bible describes that that our life in this world is but a fleeting shadow (Ps 144:4), a mist (Jam 4:14), or a breath (Ps 39:5,11; 62:9; 144:4; Isa 2:22). Truthfully, we will meet our Lord Jesus by his coming to us soon or our coming to him soon. Bible describes. So we need a sense of urgency and readiness.

Here according to verse 13, “he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas.” It is noticeable that he gave each servant one mina, while in the parable of the Talents in Matthew’s gospel the master gave five talents of money to one, two talents to another, and one talent to another. (A mina was a Greek coin worth 100 drachmas, the drachma being a labourer’s daily wage.) It is true that though people’s talents are different, each one has one life. Although one’s lifespan is different, each has one lifecycle. However, according to the Bible, life is meaningless; everything is meaningless in this world without God. So Solomon finally said in Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.” Furthermore, all are dead in sin apart from Christ. No one can do any good work without Christ in God’s sight. However, deadened souls are made alive in Christ. So generally speaking, here one mina refers to a new life in Christ. So Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 2:10, “We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Jesus said, “Put this money to work.” We learn the concept of our life in Christ. It is to be an investment, spiritual investment. When Jesus called his twelve disciples, he had a clear purpose that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach (Mk 3:14). Jesus wanted them to grow to be like him being sanctified by the truth of God’s word (Jn 17:17) and be sent out to preach the gospel and raise disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19). According to John’s gospel Jesus call them so that they might know God’s love and love Jesus more than anything else and feed his sheep (Jn 21:15-17). And he said in John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” In 2 Timothy Apostle Paul wanted Timothy to be strong in the grace of Christ Jesus and entrust what he has learned to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Tim 2:1-2). And Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 5:2, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care.” When Jesus said, “Put this money to work,” he wanted us to have a clear life direction and purpose in him. And Christian life is likened to that of a soldier, of a runner and of a farmer (2 Tim 2:3-6). So to put this money to work involves discipline, loyalty, enduring hardship, fighting, continuous running, hardworking and diligence.

Second, the servants’ report (14-27). Look at verse 14. “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’” This is a sad story but tells us the reality of the world. The situation of the world has not been a welcoming atmosphere for the return of the king. Generally, there is a strong rejection for the king, not because of something wrong with the king but with the people to be their own kings. In verse 15 “he was made king, however, and returned home.” The kingship would not rely on his popularity among the people, but be an absolute one regardless of the people’s flavour. And he returned home, the earth. In truth heaven and earth belong to him. He has the ownership and kingship. In the story the hostile atmosphere for the king would be the servants’ working environment. When the king returned, he sent for the servants to him he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. The king kept his promise of returning and follows up what he had said, “Put this money to work until I return.” His word and act are not those of a careless irresponsible one, but of a true and trustworthy one.

Look at verse 16. “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.” Wow! 1000% profit from his investment. How could he make such a surprising profit? As we thought of, the world he was living and working was hostile toward his master. When he tried to work in that environment identifying himself as a servant of his master, there must have been many difficulties. Yet, we can imagine that even if no one could recognize and encourage him to work, he worked hard for the recognition of his master. He must kept his master’s words in his heart, “Put this money to work until I return.” His purpose of working was different from that of the people of the world. As for him, undoubtedly his personal relationship with his master was the most important. Since the master trusted in him and gave him a mina, he wanted to be a trustworthy servant. As a result he could make such a great profit.

We are reminded of Noah who completed his mission of make an ark for himself and his family and for the future world. Ark-building was his lifelong project. This task was huge beyond his ability. And it was not easy at all for him to do the work of ark-building in the unbelieving, pleasure-oriented and violent world. Yet, while all the people of the world ignored the words of God, he absolutely believed God’s words of promise and struggled hard to live by the word of God and saw the world with the lens of God’s word. Surely, he cried out to God for new strength time and again in his battle of faith. In this struggle the Spirit of God was with him and encouraged him in his lonely spiritual battle. Then he was not oppressed by the world; rather he condemned the world and became an heir of righteousness, completing God’s given task.

Look at verse 17. “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.” What a heart-thrilling moment to the servant! The servant’s earning ten minas was surprising, so was the master’s reward for him. Perhaps he was nobody in the world, but now he received such a recognition from his master, the true king. The master praised the servant’s good work and his good character. Good work stems from good character. This goodness is not natural; it is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22). Then the master put his servant in charge of ten cities. Now he is to rule with his master. God wants us to believe that there will be such a time of true evaluation and true reward from King of kings and Lord of lords, and Master of masters. The secret of receiving such a reward is being trustworthy in a very small matter before the invisible Master and King.

Look at verse 18. “‘The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more,’” This servant made a 500% profit. That was also great. This servant had a personal struggle, not comparing himself with others. He acknowledged his weaknesses as well as his strength and did his best to put the money he received to work. The master knew all his struggle and rewarded him personally and appropriately, saying, “You take charge of five cities.” We see the character of the master: he is discerning and just in rewarding his servants. Here we can also see a personal trust relationship between the master and this servant.

Look at verse 20. “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’” What a poor report! In this parable verses written about this servant is the most. This servant spoke most among the three with many words of excuses. What’s the matter with this servant? The matter was first of all with his view of his master. Taking up what one did not put down and reaping what one did not sow are evidently proverbial expressions for making gain through other people’s efforts. To the servant his master was a hard, unjust taskmaster. His relationship with his master was like that of a slave and a sliver driver. We are minded of the older son in the parable of the lost sons, who regarded the time of being in his father’s house as slaving for him, with no love relationship with his father. In the same way the servant could not have a loving and trusting relationship with his master. His view of his master was wrong. For it was shown through the preceding two servants that the master was not a hard man who only wanted profit for himself but a deeply affectionate man who was truly concerned about his servants’ happiness and shared the joy and happiness together. His view of his master was twisted, and his twisted view came from his twisted heart. In that wrong and twisted view of his master the servant could not put the money he received to work. We don’t know why his heart and view of his master became like that. Probably that happened gradually as he lived in the hard world with many hard people, ignoring his master and the master’s words.

Look at verse 22. “His master replied. ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’” Probably, when the servant spoke many words, he expected a sympathy or a favour from his mater. However, the time of favour was over. Now the master showed that he was really a hard man based on what the servant had said. If he really knew his master was a hard, strict man, he would not have kept the money laid away in a piece of cloth but could have put the money on the (moneylender’s) bench so that he could have made even a bit profit. He did not knew in a true sense that his master was a hard man, and so did not truly fear his master. The servant seemed to be very vague and nothing was absolute to him. To the master, he was a wicked servant formed in bad character. He did not absolutely believe that his master would return and evaluate each trusted servant. He had to know that his master was the very one he had to truly fear. Look at verse 24. “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’” His mina being taken away from him meant his relationship with his master ended, which implied his judgment.

At this, they said, “Sir, he already has ten!” Then the master replied, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.” In the Christian life we do not stand still. We use our gifts and make progress or we lose what we have. Apostle Paul said in Romans 11:22, “Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness” (Ro 11:22). In saying this Paul wanted the Gentile believers to continue to stand by faith. God is both kind and stern. He is deeply affectionate and stern and strict as well. He is the God of love. But rejecting his love means inviting his absolute judgment. So the end of this parable is this in verse 27. “But those enemies of mine, who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.” One’s belief must not be vague and relative. The king’s judgment is absolute, his evaluation is absolute and his reward is absolute.

In this relativistic world may we live with absolute faith, having the words of our Lord Jesus, “Put this money to work until I return” in our hearts and absolutely believing that there will the time of reward and punishment.

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